Saturday, March 30, 2013

John Boehner Cherry Picks Abraham Lincoln

Greg Sargent points out John Boehner channels Abraham Lincoln.

"In his memo to House Republicans, John Boehner cites a quote from Abraham Lincoln that, he says, supports the current GOP position on the evils of government spending and debt…But as Luke Johnson points out, Boehner left out the part of the quote where Lincoln called for higher tariffs or taxes. That’s fun. But I would go a step further. It isn’t just that Lincoln believed in increased revenues to pay down debt. Lincoln was also a firm believer in spending public money on infrastructure and boosting the economy."

Krugman adds, "But wait: there’s more. Lincoln’s most dramatic departure from standard economic policy was … drumroll .. debasing the currency."

Friday, March 29, 2013

Graphene aerogel is the new world's lightest substance

Crave reports Graphene aerogel is the new world's lightest substance

"Now, a new graphene aerogel created by scientists led by professor Gao Chao at the Zhejiang University has swept past, weighing in at just 0.16 milligrams per cubic centimetre. For reference, the density of air is 1.2 milligrams per cubic centimetre — so the new material is 7.5 times lighter than air. It's twice as heavy as hydrogen — the lightest element there is — but beats out helium, which has a density of 0.1786 milligrams per cubic centimetre."

"The new material is amazingly absorptive, able to suck in up to 900 times its own weight in oil at a rate of 68.8 grams per second — only oil, not water, which means it has massive potential as a cleaning material when it comes to events such as oil spills. Then, both the graphene aerogel and the oil could be recycled."

What It Was Like to Oppose the Iraq War in 2003

John Judis writes in the New Republic, Iraq War 10-Year Anniversary: What It Was Like to Oppose It in 2003

"In early 2003, I was invited to another CIA event: the annual conference on foreign policy in Wilmington. At that conference, one of the agency officials pulled me aside and explained that the purpose of the seminar was actually to try to convince the White House not to invade Iraq. They didn’t think they could do that directly, but hoped to convey their reservations by issuing a study based on our seminar. He said I had been invited because of my columns in The American Prospect, which was where, at the time, I made known my views opposing an invasion. When Spencer Ackerman and I later did an article on the CIA’s role in justifying the invasion, we discovered that there was a kind of pro-invasion ‘B Team’ that CIA Director George Tenet encouraged, but what I discovered from my brief experience at the CIA was that most of the analysts were opposed to an invasion."

"These dissenters were entirely right about the war, and nothing that has happened since then has weakened their case. The United States got several hundred thousand people killed to install a regime that may eventually prove to be as oppressive as Saddam Hussein’s, is closely allied to the Iranian government, and has proven as likely to give oil contracts to Chinese firms as to American firms. And oh yes, Iraq didn’t have “WMDs” after all—a ridiculous acronym that the administration and its supporters used to equate the possession of chemical or biological weapons with the possession of nuclear weapons."

How Brown Moses exposed Syrian arms trafficking from his front room

Great article in the Guardian, How Brown Moses exposed Syrian arms trafficking from his front room.

"Eliot Higgins has no need for a flak jacket, nor does he carry himself with the bravado of a war reporter. As an unemployed finance and admin worker his expertise lies in compiling spreadsheets, not dodging bullets. He has never been near a war zone. But all that hasn't stopped him from breaking some of the most important stories on the Syrian conflict in the last year.

His work on analysing Syrian weapons, which began as a hobby, is now frequently cited by human rights groups and has led to questions in parliament. Higgins' latest discovery of a new batch of Croatian weapons in the hands of Syrian rebels appears to have blown the lid on a covert international operation to arm the opposition.

And he's done it all, largely unpaid, from a laptop more than 3,000 miles away from Damascus, in his front room in a Leicester suburb."

Makes me feel completely inadequate as a blogger.

Holi 2013: The Festival of Colors

In Focus on Holi 2013: The Festival of Colors "This week Hindus around the world celebrated Holi, the Festival of Colors. Holi is a popular springtime celebration observed on the last full moon of the lunar month. Participants traditionally throw bright, vibrant powders at friends and strangers alike as they celebrate the arrival of spring, commemorate Krishna's pranks, and allow each other a momentary freedom -- a chance to drop their inhibitions and simply play and dance. Gathered here are images of this year's Holi festival from across India. [34 photos]"

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Climate Changing Wine and Coffee

I'm not sure if the mainstream right is still saying climate change is a hoax or if they're all watering it down to man made climate is a hoax but it's already affecting producers of wine and coffee.

And yeah, Analysis of climate change modelling for past 15 years reveal accurate forecasts of rising global temperatures.

The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon's 'treason'

A must read from the BBC, The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon's 'treason' "Declassified tapes of President Lyndon Johnson's telephone calls provide a fresh insight into his world. Among the revelations - he planned a dramatic entry into the 1968 Democratic Convention to re-join the presidential race. And he caught Richard Nixon sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks... but said nothing."

"On the White House tapes we learn that Johnson wanted to know from Daley how many delegates would support his candidacy. LBJ only wanted to get back into the race if Daley could guarantee the party would fall in line behind him. They also discussed whether the president's helicopter, Marine One, could land on top of the Hilton Hotel to avoid the anti-war protesters. Daley assured him enough delegates would support his nomination but the plan was shelved after the Secret Service warned the president they could not guarantee his safety."

"It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign. He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser…Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal. So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out. He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador's phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault's calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to "just hang on through election"."

"Johnson felt [what Nixon did] was the ultimate expression of political hypocrisy but in calls recorded with Clifford they express the fear that going public would require revealing the FBI were bugging the ambassador's phone and the National Security Agency (NSA) was intercepting his communications with Saigon. So they decided to say nothing."

Truth and Melodrama and Phil Spector

Phil Spector, written and directed by David Mamet, debuted on HBO last Sunday. I haven't watched it yet, but I have read Mamet's Truth and Melodrama and Phil Spector about the making of the story.

It's an interesting examination of what makes drama by looking at several films. There are spoilers for Casablanca, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, The Sixth Sense, The Bicycle Thief, Flight and Phil Spector. It's a big spoiler for his film, describing the end pretty thoroughly but if anything, it made me more interested in seeing it.

For another Mamet read, there's David Mamet’s Master Class Memo to the Writers of The Unit. "Besides the fact that it's written in all-caps, there's nothing particularly ranty, pejorative or potty-mouthed about it. Rather, Mamet lays down an extremely sensible case for what makes good television, imploring them to avoid expository writing for what he characterizes as authentic "drama." Along the way, he refers repeatedly to the "blue-suited penguins" (probably the copious-note-givers at the network), while passing along some very useful advice ("any time two characters are talking about a third, the scene is a crock of shit") and helpful writing exercises ("pretend the characters can't speak and write a silent movie"). Screenwriters, take note: You may think you knew this already, but there's nothing like Mamet for a good kick-in-the-ass reminder."

Buckle Your Brainpan: The Primer Director Is Back With a New Film

Wired says Buckle Your Brainpan: The Primer Director Is Back With a New Film. Primer was a tiny indie sci-fi film made for $7,000 ten years ago. It's a crazy complicated time travel story, I'm pretty sure the most complex ever put on film. I really should watch it a few dozen more times. It was a darling at Sundance but what has Carruth been doing since then? Turns out failing at one movie and finishing another.

The Robert Redford Story

Esquire has a great profile of Robert Redford, Free at Last: The Robert Redford Story. The page has a video that auto-plays which sucks, but the article is quite good.

How the Maker of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing

ProPublica has an interesting story How the Maker of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing. It's a lesson for how lobbying works in Congress, particularly for issues where there isn't much of an opponent speaking up for the other side (copyright is this way too).

Fact-checking at The New Yorker

Fact-checking at The New Yorker : Columbia Journalism Review "Last month, Columbia Journalism Review Books and Columbia University Press released The Art of Making Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry, an anthology of insights and reminiscences from top magazine editors. The book is based on talks given to students as part of the Delacorte Lecture Series at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The following is excerpted from chapter five, ‘Fact-Checking at The New Yorker,’ which is itself taken from a lecture delivered by New Yorker fact-checking director Peter Canby on February 28, 2002."

The Day My Grandfather Groucho and I Saved ‘You Bet Your Life’

Groucho Marx's grandson tells the story of The Day My Grandfather Groucho and I Saved ‘You Bet Your Life’ almost by accident.

Diving Deep into Danger

Nathaniel Rich wrote in The New York Review of Books, Diving Deep into Danger. It's a fascination look at the world of and people who do deep sea dives. Throw this in Instapaper and enjoy at some point.

Jon Stewart on Gay Marriage Cases

The Daily Show came back this week after a two week break. My week is (sadly?) much happier when it's on. I just hope the fills-ins during Stewart's hiatus this summer are half as good and I'll be happy. I didn't think the episodes this week were phenomenal, until the opening segment yesterday. Here's Jon Stewart on the gay marriage cases the Supreme Court dealt with this week. It's Stewart's at his best, and doing something that real news really can't do. Some might call it adding opinion, I think it's adding such obvious facts to a debate that's so stupid, that people think it's opinion.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Attacks on Spamhaus Used Internet Against Itself

The New York Times reported on how Attacks on Spamhaus Used Internet Against Itself. "On Tuesday, security engineers said that an anonymous group unhappy with Spamhaus, a volunteer organization that distributes a blacklist of spammers to e-mail providers, had retaliated with a cyberattack of vast proportions.

In what is called a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attack, the assailants harnessed a powerful botnet — a network of thousands of infected computers being controlled remotely — to send attack traffic first to Spamhaus’s Web site and later to the Internet servers used by CloudFlare, a Silicon Valley company that Spamhaus hired to deflect its onslaught."

Are Technica gives more details in two posts. When spammers go to war: Behind the Spamhaus DDoS explains who the parties are and what they're arguing about including some details on how some spam is blocked. How Spamhaus’ attackers turned DNS into a weapon of mass destruction explains some of the reasons this attack is different than previous ones.

The landscape of abortion bans, in one must-see map

The landscape of abortion bans, in one must-see map "These are the states you see in orange, in this graphic below, which uses data from the Guttmacher Institute to map all the laws that ban later-term abortion in the United States. The slightly lighter states represent those where a ban exists but is not in effect, due to a pending legal challenge."

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On the page, the above is interactive, you pick the time period to show the highlighted states. I was certainly surprised by some of the data.

"Twenty-one states had laws that banned abortions after viability, most with exceptions for the life or health of the woman. These laws are considered legal under Roe v. Wade, which found that states have a “compelling” interest in protecting a fetus that “presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb.”

States had also passed laws that banned abortion later in the pregnancy, at specific week. These laws, as Nash explained to me, are thought to be a violation of standing abortion case law, which says that the point of viability must be determined by a physician not the state.

Since they often have little practical effect (98.7 percent of abortions happen prior to 21 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), states have left them on the books. New York, however, is currently trying to repeal a ban on abortions 24 weeks after the last period.

The 20-week bans looked different. For one, they moved up to an earlier point in pregnancy. Secondly, some in the anti-abortion movement saw them as a way to bring a new abortion case to the Supreme Court. Moving up earlier in the pregnancy would, the thinking went, likely bait a new challenge.

It didn’t quite work: Most of the 20-week bans still stand as law, without any court challenge. Laws in Arizona, Idaho and Georgia have subsequently been challenged, after the Nebraska law spent a year on the books untouched."

Are People Really Going to Fix Too Big To Fail?

Simon Johnson says The Debate on Bank Size Is Over. "While bank lobbyists and some commentators are suddenly taken with the idea that an active debate is under way about whether to limit bank size in the United States, they are wrong. The debate is over; the decision to cap the size of the largest banks has been made. All that remains is to work out the details. To grasp the new reality, think about the Cyprus debacle this month, the Senate budget resolution last week and Ben Bernanke’s revelation that — on too big to fail — “I agree with Elizabeth Warren 100 percent that it’s a real problem.”"

"But the bigger point from Cyprus is much simpler. Why would you want one or two banks to become so large in terms of their assets relative to gross domestic product that a single mistaken calculation can bring down the economy? In the American context, why would you allow any bank to outgrow the F.D.I.C.’s ability to resolve it in a relatively straightforward and low-cost manner? (The largest bank failure handled to date was that of Washington Mutual, also known as WaMu, with $307 billion in assets; JPMorgan Chase, today the world’s largest bank when measured properly, has assets closer to $4 trillion)."

The Startling Rise of Disability in America

I caught some part of this story by Chana Joffe-Walt on NPR in the car and it amazed me. Unfit for Work: The startling rise of disability in America.

"Over and over again, I'd listen to someone's story of how back pain meant they could no longer work, or how a shoulder injury had put them out of a job. Then I would ask: What about a job where you don't have to lift things, or a job where you don't have to use your shoulder, or a job where you can sit down? They would look at me as if I were asking, 'How come you didn't consider becoming an astronaut?'

One woman I met, Ethel Thomas, is on disability for back pain after working many years at the fish plant, and then as a nurse's aide. When I asked her what job she would have in her dream world, she told me she would be the woman at the Social Security office who weeds through disability applications. I figured she said this because she thought she'd be good at weeding out the cheaters. But that wasn't it. She said she wanted this job because it is the only job she's seen where you get to sit all day. At first, I found this hard to believe. But then I started looking around town. There's the McDonald's, the fish plant, the truck repair shop. I went down a list of job openings -- Occupational Therapist, McDonald's, McDonald's, Truck Driver (heavy lifting), KFC, Registered Nurse, McDonald's. I actually think it might be possible that Ethel could not conceive of a job that would accommodate her pain."

"People on disability are not counted among the unemployed…But disability has also become a de facto welfare program for people without a lot of education or job skills. But it wasn't supposed to serve this purpose; it's not a retraining program designed to get people back onto their feet. Once people go onto disability, they almost never go back to work…People who leave the workforce and go on disability qualify for Medicare, the government health care program that also covers the elderly. They also get disability payments from the government of about $13,000 a year. This isn't great. But if your alternative is a minimum wage job that will pay you at most $15,000 a year, and probably does not include health insurance, disability may be a better option."

"Then I looked at the numbers. I found that the number of kids on a program called Supplemental Security Income -- a program for children and adults who are both poor and disabled -- is almost seven times larger than it was 30 years ago."

"Part of Clinton's welfare reform plan pushed states to get people on welfare into jobs, partly by making states pay a much larger share of welfare costs. The incentive seemed to work; the welfare rolls shrank. But not everyone who left welfare went to work. A person on welfare costs a state money. That same resident on disability doesn't cost the state a cent, because the federal government covers the entire bill for people on disability. So states can save money by shifting people from welfare to disability."

Ezra Klein interviewed Chana Joffe-Walt

George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and the creation of Indiana Jones

The New Yorker wrote Spitballing Indy: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and the creation of Indiana Jones "So I was gobsmacked to discover, recently, that over several days in 1978, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and the screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan worked through an idea Lucas had for a film called ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and they recorded the sessions. And there’s a transcript. And it’s online."

The transcript is long, the linked to article has highlights. Based on those highlights it makes some sense to me. Lucas had better ideas, Speilberg knew how to direct.

A supernova in our lifetimes?

Ars Technica writes Earth-shattering kabooms: A supernova in our lifetimes? "No star that will go supernova in the foreseeable future is close enough to the Solar System to pose a risk to us. But what stars might be close enough to provide us with a lovely show—and a great example for study? Here are just a few, all within the Milky Way, with at least a slim chance of going boom before humans go extinct from other causes."

Pretty pictures included. I often look up deliberately to see if Betelgeuse has exploded yet.

How the Heritage Foundation Manufactured a New Obamacare Myth

Jonathan Bernstein explains How the Heritage Foundation Manufactured a New Obamacare Myth

"And she has a chart showing estimated new costs rising from $898 billion in March 2010 to $1.6 trillion in February 2013. The chart is titled ‘Obamacare’s New Spending Estimates Keep Rising,’ and includes text saying ‘The Congressional Budget Office as made several estimates of the 10-year cost of Obamacare’s new spending on the Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies, and the costs keep rising.’

Except…it’s entirely phony. The real story from the CBO charts she cites says the estimates haven’t really changed at all."

He goes on to explain how the comparisons are for different numbers of years and using different amounts of subsidies.

GPS for Weather Forecasting

NY Times blog Bits on PlanetIQ’s approach to forecasting the weather

"It uses signals from GPS satellites, but not for positioning. Instead, it measures distortion in these signals to learn about the atmosphere through which they passed."

"The company wants to put 12 tiny satellites into orbit that will do nothing except watch the GPS satellites rise and set on Earth’s horizon. The signals sent from these satellites are bent by the atmosphere at an angle that indicates the air’s temperature, pressure and water vapor content. PlanetIQ’s satellites can determine the angle because the way the signals are bent delays their arrival. The GPS signal already encodes the time at which it was sent; the time it should have arrived had there been no bend can be computed if one knows the distance the signal was supposed to have traveled."

"In PlanetIQ’s system, each satellite would take 1,000 readings a day from the GPS satellites, with each reading measuring the temperature and pressure of the slice of Earth’s atmosphere through which the signal traveled. The fleet would generate about 5.5 million readings a day, which would be integrated by a computer on the ground into a 3-D map of atmospheric data."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The NSA's Cryptolog

Bruce Schneier reports on The NSA's Cryptolog "The NSA has published declassified versions of its Cryptolog newsletter. All the issues from Aug 1974 through Summer 1997 are on the web, although there are some pretty heavy redactions in places."

And of course I think we have a FoIA request from John Young to thank for this. His Cryptome should win a Peabody too. He got indexes of the issues up in two parts: one and two.

72nd Annual Peabody Awards: Complete List of Winners

72nd Annual Peabody Awards Winners were announced.

I've seen a few of the documentaries and liked them. I'm glad Louie won and continue to be mystified by the praise for Girls. Also of note, SCOTUSblog won and it's the first time the award was given to a blog. Well deserved. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that Doctor Who and Lorne Michaels won.

Calvin & Hobbes Animated GIFs

This genius created a tumblr of Calvin & Hobbes Animated GIFs. "I've always loved Calvin & Hobbes and when I bought the box set it inspired me to animate and create some GIFs Updates will occur once a day, only on weekdays at noon."

I soooo wish there was a Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon.

Calvin Hobbes Hiding SnowmenCalvin Hobbes DancingCalvin Hobbes Snowball FightCalvin Hobbes Watching Birds

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hackers Create An Amazing, Illegal Portrait Of The Internet

Co.Design reports Infographic: Hackers Create An Amazing, Illegal Portrait Of The Internet "Someone hacked almost half a million devices around the world. Why? They wanted to see what the Internet looked like."

The paper is here, with plenty of pretty pictures and a zoomable browser. is a new weather site and I have to say, it's pretty…

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Fracking Spurred Biggest Earthquake Yet

The Earth Institute of Columbia University reports Wastewater Injection Spurred Biggest Earthquake Yet, Says Study "A new study in the journal Geology is the latest to tie a string of unusual earthquakes, in this case, in central Oklahoma, to the injection of wastewater deep underground. Researchers now say that the magnitude 5.7 earthquake near Prague, Okla., on Nov. 6, 2011, may also be the largest ever linked to wastewater injection"

There's some mitigating info in the article. It's hard to prove what caused a specific quake and other human activities are believed to cause quakes, not just fracking and if anything fracking causes small quakes. Still, I wonder, and I'm waiting for some study on fracking causing quakes near nuclear power plants changing the seismic assumptions of the site.

The Supreme Court’s rightward shift — or not (in two charts)

The Supreme Court’s rightward shift — or not (in two charts) "Below, we look at two competing theories, illustrated by Randy Schutt and based on data compiled by academics at two major universities." I thought this was an interesting way to chart this.


Monday, March 25, 2013

The Filming Locations of Eyes Wide Shut

Scouting NY wrote Stanley Kubrick, The Shining, & New York City: The Filming Locations of Eyes Wide Shut. He has shots of the impossible Overlook Hotel from The Shining and then examines Eyes Wide Shut. There's a nice graphic map reconstruction of the set and how Dr. Bill Harford wanders around it. But in the end I have to agree with this:

"But to say that every single incompatible detail was part of some vast but subtle psychological scheme on Kubrick’s part is ridiculous. There’s a difference between very real artistic embellishments, and the constraints of practical studio filmmaking, where space is limited and you do your best to give scope where none exists – whether that’s adding an impossible window, or having Bill pass the same vacant lot three times in one night. As meticulous as he was, even Kubrick overlooked a pizza parlor once in a while."

I'm quite certain that Kubrick was insanely meticulous in the construction of each shot, he got that from his photography beginnings. I'm less convinced he felt that way about the layout of the worlds he created. Though the final battle in Full Metal Jacket is as good as it gets at capturing an accurate sense of space over several blocks. But that was an explicit goal of that one scene, I'm not sure about any other random scene in a film, let alone one about dreams.

Still I'm always down for crazy Kubrick analysis. :)

Drone war: every attack in Pakistan visualised

Drone war: every attack in Pakistan visualised | News | "Drones have become a routine part of military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Using data from the Bureau for Investigative Journalism (which we used to create this map), California-based designers Pitch Interactive have visualised every known attack by the US and Coalition military since 2004. Says Pitch's Wesley Grubbs: 'Our aim is to try can get people to pause for a moment and consider the issue of drone strikes seriously'"

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The science of breast milk

Salan writes on The science of breast milk. "For decades, milk was thought of strictly in terms of nutrients, which makes sense—milk is how a mother feeds her baby, after all. But providing nutrients turns out to be only part of what milk does. And it might not even be the most important part."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Here’s what’s holding up a gun bill (Hint: It’s not the assault weapons ban)

Here’s what’s holding up a gun bill (Hint: It’s not the assault weapons ban) "Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn have been negotiating this issue, and on most of it they’ve very, very close to a deal. But there’s one sticking point: Record-keeping. Schumer wants a record kept of the background check. Coburn won’t agree to anything of the kind."

"The case for record-keeping is twofold. The first argument is compliance. If we’re not keeping records, how can we be sure anybody is complying?…The second argument is that the records are needed so law enforcement can trace the history of guns that end up in crimes."

"The argument against this kind of record-keeping appears to be a bit hazy. There’s a principles-based claim, which is that gun ownership is a constitutional right and, therefore, onerous burdens on law-abiding citizens are simply wrong. That’s a bit hard to square with the fact that most gun sales go through exactly this process today and that guns are perfectly easy to get. Prominent Republicans will admit, off the record, that they’re catering to fear and paranoia that the NRA has whipped up about the creation of a national gun registry that would, eventually, be used to take away everyone’s guns — or worse."

Obamacare’s most popular provisions are its least well known

Obamacare’s most popular provisions are its least well known "It is, by now, so well known as to be almost a cliche: Obamacare is unpopular even though most of its major provisions are highly popular. But this Kaiser poll adds to our understanding. What you’re seeing in those long blue lines at the bottom is that Obamacare’s least popular elements — the individual mandate, the employer penalty — are also its best known. And some of its most popular elements — closing the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole,’ creating insurance exchanges, extending tax credits to small businesses — are its least well known."


Smithsonian Magazine 2012 Photography Contest

The Big Picture presents Smithsonian Magazine 2012 Photography Contest: 50 Finalists though there are only 22 photos shown. Still they're amazing.

"The Smithsonian magazine's 10th annual photo contest's 50 finalists have been chosen, but there's still time for you to vote for the Readers Choice winner! This year's competition has drawn over 37,600 entries from photographers in 112 countries around the world. Editors will choose a Grand Prize Winner and the winners in each of five categories which include The Natural World, Americana, People, Travel and Altered Images. Voting will be open through March 29, 2013. -- Paula Nelson ( 22 photos total)"

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Lie, Buy, then Lie Some More: Global TBTF Banks' MO

Better Markets writes a scathing indictment of the too-big-to-jail system, Lie, Buy, then Lie Some More: Global TBTF Banks' MO

"The MO of break the law; lie about it; buy your way out of it; and then lie some more must end and Standard Charter should be the example that announces to the world that it is going to end. This is not only the right thing to do, but the bank's chairman has given DOJ a golden opportunity: DOJ can prosecute the specific offending individual bankers and not the bank, thereby avoiding its overstated concern about collateral consequences. It can, finally, establish that no banker is too-big-to-jail even if the bank itself might be too-big-to-fail.

If DOJ doesn't take such swift and strong action here then it will bring yet more shame, dishonor and disgrace on what is misleadingly still called the Department of Justice. "

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Inside Secrets of the Making of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan and "Space Seed"!

io9 describes Inside Secrets of the Making of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan and "Space Seed"! "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan towers over the history of movie space opera. But where did Star Trek's greatest villain come from, and how did the movie resurrect him? Sociology professors John and Maria Jose Tenuto have spent months researching the real-life history of Khan, and they shared tons of inside information with us. Plus never-before-seen behind-the-scenes photos!"

Lots of stuff I didn't know.

F-1 Engine Recovery

It's pretty crazy but Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has recovered an engine from one of the Apollo rockets (still the biggest ever made). F-1 Engine Recovery. "What an incredible adventure. We are right now onboard the Seabed Worker headed back to Cape Canaveral after finishing three weeks at sea, working almost 3 miles below the surface. We found so much. We’ve seen an underwater wonderland – an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program. We photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime pieces. Each piece we bring on deck conjures for me the thousands of engineers who worked together back then to do what for all time had been thought surely impossible."

Google Reader Joins Graveyard of Dead Google Products

Slate shows The Google Graveyard.

I'd heard of about half of them and a few of the deaths surprised me, but other than Reader I'm not going to miss any of them. And really the only thing I used Reader for was sync'ing. I think I used the web interface a total of two times.

I now get most of my news from RSS feeds. I see news first usually on Twitter, and I subscribe to a few magazines (print and digital). But each day, the way my dad sat down with a newspaper or two, I sit and go through my RSS feeds and blog the most interesting stuff.

I started on RSS with Vienna and NetNewsWire but once I got an iPad I wanted a product that kept track of what I read across devices. I follow about 400 RSS feeds and use Reeder on my Mac and iPad and occasionally on my iPhone. It, like most of its competitors used Google Reader as its backend. They tweeted that they're not going away but we'll have to see what their solution is.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ars Explains Latency

Ars has a nice article on Latency, Video buffering or slow downloads? Blame the speed of light. The first page and a half is a nice introduction to the issue and how networks deal with it for the layman. The last half page sums up various was current systems are dealing with it.

Marches of Folly, From Iraq to the Deficit to Drones

It's the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq so there's some reflection.

I watched the Showtime documentary The World According to Dick Cheney and it's pretty good. I didn't learn too much but it was a fair history and a reasonable interview. All though there were a few times I really wanted to ask a followup question. One thing I did learn is that Cheney lied to House Majority Leader Dick Armey to convince him to vote for the war.

As the Times says, "As Mr. Gellman relates in the film, Mr. Cheney privately misled his friend, telling Mr. Armey that the top-secret evidence was actually worse than he had said publicly and that Iraq was close to developing a suitcase nuke that could be used by Qaeda terrorists. Mr. Armey changed his position and voted for war."

Krugman writes Marches of Folly, From Iraq to the Deficit "There were, it turned out, no weapons of mass destruction; it was obvious in retrospect that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. And the war — having cost thousands of American lives and scores of thousands of Iraqi lives, having imposed financial costs vastly higher than the war’s boosters predicted — left America weaker, not stronger, and ended up creating an Iraqi regime that is closer to Tehran than it is to Washington. So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it."

Krugman relates this in the context of current economic policy debate. Glenn Greenwald takes on Charles Krauthammer's false statement about the US Constitution regarding drone strikes. "That italicizied claim from Krauthammer - that "outside American soil, the Constitution does not rule" - is a very common assertion and thus widely believed. But it is factually false. And there can be no reasonable dispute about this."

In Greenwaldian brevity he goes on to cite the logical argument and then the 1957 Supreme Court case Reid v. Covert which decided it.

Thieves identified in Gardner Museum theft of Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings

Thieves identified in Gardner Museum theft of Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings "In a stunning development, federal law enforcement officials said today they had identified the people who stole $500 million worth of masterworks from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. The officials also said they had determined where the paintings had traveled in the years after they were stolen, but they did not know where they are now and were appealing to the public for their help."

Bruce Lee the Lost Interview

Saw this via cojourneo.

Krugman on Cyprus

Island Nightmares "Anyway, the Cyprus story has obvious parallels with both Iceland and Ireland, with RMML — Russian mobster money laundering — as an extra ingredient. All three island nations had a run of rapid growth as banking havens that left them with banking systems that were too big to save."

"Iceland got through the crisis with less damage than Ireland, for two reasons. First, it let the banks default on liabilities to overseas creditors, including deposits in offshore accounts. Second, it had the flexibility that comes from having your own currency."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Does Moderna Therapeutics Have the NEXT Next Big Thing in Medicine?

I really don't trust Boston Magazine for such a thing, but I hadn't heard of this and found it interesting. Does Moderna Therapeutics Have the NEXT Next Big Thing in Medicine? "At 12:01 a.m., the company’s PR firm sent a press release to media and investors over the PR Newswire, announcing triumphantly that Moderna was on the verge of ‘adding an entirely new drug category to the pharmaceutical arsenal in the fight against important diseases.’ What the company had been so quietly pioneering was a fundamentally new form of drug delivery—one that would allow for the targeted production of medicine inside the human body.

It was a startling idea. Moderna claimed to have figured out a way of instructing specific cells to manufacture drugs on demand. The company said it had completed extensive preclinical trials, including a successful trial in nonhuman primates. Still to come was the final frontier: clinical trials in humans. If they proved successful, Moderna declared, it would be able to slash the rate of drug discovery from years to mere weeks, and treat dozens of diseases for which currently there were no drugs. The practice of medicine, and the pharmaceutical business, would be changed forever."

What’s Inside America’s Banks?

Frank Partnoy and Jesse Eisinger wrote in last month's Atlantic What’s Inside America’s Banks? "Some four years after the 2008 financial crisis, public trust in banks is as low as ever. sophisticated investors describe big banks as ‘black boxes’ that may still be concealing enormous risks—the sort that could again take down the economy. A close investigation of a supposedly conservative bank’s financial records uncovers the reason for these fears—and points the way toward urgent reforms."

It's very good and a bit long. Taibbi-like but without the swearing and with more details and concrete suggestions.

Hope for the House Progressive Caucus Plan?

Business Insider's Sequester Poll: Respondents Buck Party Trends from a couple of weeks ago is the most encouraging thing I've read in a while.

"The poll asked participants to consider the core points of three sequester replacement proposals in Congress, without telling them the partisan affiliation of those plans. It found that in some cases, both Democrats and Republicans actually opposed their own party's plans and/or backed their adversaries' proposal."

"Surprisingly, the plan that polled the strongest was the House Progressive Caucus plan. More than half of respondents supported it compared to sequestration and just a fifth of respondents were opposed…Shockingly, 47 percent of Republicans preferred the House Progressive plan to the sequester. This means that Republicans supported the House Progressive plan just as much as they supported their own party's plan."

As Krugman says of the plan, "I’ve seen some people describe the caucus proposal as a “Ryan plan of the left,” but that’s unfair. There are no Ryan-style magic asterisks, trillion-dollar savings that are assumed to come from unspecified sources; this is an honest proposal. And “Back to Work” rests on solid macroeconomic analysis, not the fantasy “expansionary austerity” economics — the claim that slashing spending in a depressed economy somehow promotes job growth rather than deepening the depression — that Mr. Ryan continues to espouse despite the doctrine’s total failure in Europe.

No, the only thing the progressive caucus and Mr. Ryan share is audacity. And it’s refreshing to see someone break with the usual Washington notion that political “courage” means proposing that we hurt the poor while sparing the rich. No doubt the caucus plan is too audacious to have any chance of becoming law; but the same can be said of the Ryan plan."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Volcano Lightning

APOD this week, Sakurajima Volcano with Lightning "Why does a volcanic eruption sometimes create lightning? Pictured above, the Sakurajima volcano in southern Japan was caught erupting in early January. Magma bubbles so hot they glow shoot away as liquid rock bursts through the Earth's surface from below. The above image is particularly notable, however, for the lightning bolts caught near the volcano's summit. Why lightning occurs even in common thunderstorms remains a topic of research, and the cause of volcanic lightning is even less clear. Surely, lightning bolts help quench areas of opposite but separated electric charges. One hypothesis holds that catapulting magma bubbles or volcanic ash are themselves electrically charged, and by their motion create these separated areas. Other volcanic lightning episodes may be facilitated by charge-inducing collisions in volcanic dust. Lightning is usually occurring somewhere on Earth, typically over 40 times each second."

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More here.

Show at the Center of the Galaxy

A not quite star is going to fall into the giant black hole at the center of the galaxy later this year. Al lthe telescopes we have will be watching but here's a simulation.

Want to debate Medicare costs? You need to see this chart first.

Want to debate Medicare costs? You need to see this chart first.NewImage

"Health-care costs growth has seen a steep decline over the past few years. Instead of outpacing the rest of the economy, it has grown at the exact same rate."

"The ‘if’ there is crucial: We don’t know whether this cost growth slowdown is permanent or temporary, a factor of Americans cutting back on care during the recession."

Toy Stories | gabriele galimberti

Gabriele Galimberti photographed kids around the world with their toys. Toy Stories "Indeed, when Galimberti hit upon the idea of photographing children from around the world with their toys, he was not expecting to uncover much we did not already know: kids love dolls and dinosaurs and trucks and cuddly monkeys, and will construct worlds around them before eventually, inevitably, disregarding them for ever. ‘At their age, they are pretty all much the same,’ is his conclusion after 18 months working on the project. ‘They just want to play.’"

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

How Apple Changed the World

Crowds in St. Peter's Square for announcement of a new Pope in 2005 and 2013 (via NBC).

NewImageUpdate: Well maybe not quite… About those 2005 and 2013 photos of the crowds in St. Peter’s Square

North Dakota's Oil Boom

In Focus shows the North Dakota's Oil Boom, and industry and location I know little about. Some fascinating photos.

"Underlying northwestern North Dakota is a massive rock formation, referred to as the Bakken shale, which holds an estimated 18 billion barrels of crude oil. When this resource was first discovered in 1951, recovering it was financially unfeasible because the oil was embedded in the stone. Then, around 2008, everything changed, and North Dakota boomed. New drilling technology called hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking,' became widespread, and oil production took off. As of 2013, there are more than 200 active oil rigs in North Dakota, producing about 20 million barrels of oil every month -- nearly 60 percent of it shipped by rail, rather than pipeline. The rigs and support systems have resculpted the landscape, millions of dollars are being spent on infrastructure upgrades across the area, and thousands of oil field workers have arrived, living in new or temporary housing. Gathered below is a collection of images of this recent boom, spread across North Dakota's wide open plains. [30 photos]"

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House Progressives have the best answer to Paul Ryan

House Progressives have the best answer to Paul Ryan

"The ‘Back to Work’ budget is about exactly what the name implies: Putting Americans back to work. The first sentence lays it out clearly: ‘We’re in a jobs crisis that isn’t going away.’ So that’s the budget’s top priority: fixing the jobs crisis.

It begins with a stimulus program that makes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act look tepid: $2.1 trillion in stimulus and investment from 2013-2015, including a $425 billion infrastructure program, a $340 billion middle-class tax cut, a $450 billion public-works initiative, and $179 billion in state and local aid.

That’s…a lot of stimulus. More than Congress passed in 2009, in fact. The liberal Economic Policy Institute estimates that would be sufficient to ‘boost gross domestic product (GDP) by 5.7 percent and employment by 6.9 million jobs at its peak level of effectiveness (within one year of implementation)."

"Is the House Progressives’ budget likely? Of course not. One involved staffer described it to me as a “wish list.” But that makes it the perfect analogue to Ryan’s budget."

I hope it gets as much press, but it won't. But this is what the Dems should start the compromise with Republican's from and meet somewhere in the middle. Instead of Obama's approach of proposing the middle and then compromising (or not) to the right.

Why Doesn't Sequester Affect Congress?

Since various government employees are having their salaries affected by the sequester and because it seems congress and the president aren't working hard to resolve the sequester I've seen a lot speculation that if Congress' salaries were affected this would get solved faster. So why aren't Representatives and Senators affected by the sequester? Is it because they think their too important? It turns out, nope.

The Constitution of the United States: Amendment 27: "No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened."

This was Originally proposed Sept. 25, 1789 and ratified May 7, 1992. The idea was that Congress couldn't vote themselves a raise and see it unless they were elected again (though it seems Senators could get it if in the first two thirds of their term). But as written, their salary can't be lowered either.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to Write a Meaningless Law

Kevin Drum on How to Write a Meaningless Law Unfortunately it's about gun control.

"Currently, licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct a background check before they can sell you a gun. The FBI conducts the check but deletes its record of the inquiry within 24 hours. The only place that records are maintained longer than that is with the dealers themselves. Private transactions, often done at gun shows, don't require any background check at all."

"Senators negotiating a bill mandating background checks for all gun buyers are privately expecting the National Rifle Association not to fight the measure — provided the legislation does not require private gun sellers to maintain records of the checks, NBC News has learned."

"Under these conditions there would be no way to enforce the law. If you suspected someone of selling a gun privately without conducting a background check, they'd simply tell you that they did, but they didn't keep the record. The FBI wouldn't be of any help, since they're required to destroy all their records. And that would be that."

As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, 91% of the public supports background checks. In the blog Steve Benen wrote, "Put it this way: support for expanded background checks is greater than support for monotheism and capitalism." On her show she included "vacations".

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Recreating Bob Woodward

Tanner Colby writes in Slate, Bob Woodward and Gene Sperling: What Woodward’s John Belushi book can tell us about the sequester scandal

"Twenty years later, in 2004, Judy Belushi hired me, then an aspiring comedy writer, to help her with a new biography of John, this one titled Belushi: A Biography. As her coauthor, I handled most of the legwork, including all of the interviews and most of the research. What started as a fun project turned out to be a rather fascinating and unique experiment. Over the course of a year, page by page, source by source, I re-reported and rewrote one of Bob Woodward’s books. As far as I know, it’s the only time that’s ever been done."

"Wired is an infuriating piece of work. There’s a reason Woodward’s critics consistently come off as hysterical ninnies: He doesn’t make Jonah Lehrer–level mistakes. There’s never a smoking gun like an outright falsehood or a brazen ethical breach. And yet, in the final product, a lot of what Woodward writes comes off as being not quite right—some of it to the point where it can feel quite wrong. There’s no question that he frequently ferrets out information that other reporters don’t. But getting the scoop is only part of the equation. Once you have the facts, you have to present those facts in context and in proportion to other facts in order to accurately reflect reality. It’s here that Woodward fails.

Over and over during the course of my reporting I’d hear a story that conflicted with Woodward’s account in Wired. I’d say, “Aha! I’ve got him!” I’d run back to Woodward’s index, look up the offending passage, and realize that, well, no, he’d put down the mechanics of the story more or less as they’d happened. But he’d so mangled the meaning and the context that his version had nothing to do with what I concluded had actually transpired."

The Beautiful Table

Jon Ferry created The Beautiful Table. "Several months ago, I began to ask this question about one of my passions: football ("soccer" to us yanks). I wondered if how we communicate basic football information such as standings, results, and schedule could be improved through design. So with a sketchbook and Macbook in hand and Tufte's sage words on my mind, I went to work."

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I find it interesting but it's certainly not obvious (which isn't normally a goal of Tufteism). The color coding is fine, but the dim parts I find too dim to identify the referenced team. I appreciate that top and bottom shows home and away games, but I find I want a row of one team to have the team in the same place. It might work better in baseball where teams play a series of games while home or away. As it stands it reminds me of morse code.

Thoma vs Sachs vs Krugman

Jeffrey Sachs tries to argue against Paul Krugman but Mark Thoma takes him down: Crude Sachsism

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Only Video of Charlie Parker Playing Live

"Here’s a historic TV broadcast of the founding fathers of bebop, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, playing together in 1952. It’s one of only two known sound films of Parker playing–and the only one of him playing live, rather than synching to a prerecorded track." (from openculture)

‘Unclassified’ Life Found in Antarctic Lake

‘Unclassified’ Life Found in Antarctic Lake

"A preliminary examination of water samples from the ancient subglacial Lake Vostok near the South Pole indicated that its inhabitants are not to be found anywhere else on Earth, a member of the research team told RIA Novosti."

"‘After excluding all known contaminants…we discovered bacterial DNA that does not match any known species listed in global databanks. We call it unidentified and 'unclassified' life,’ Bulat said.

Seven samples of the same species of bacteria were found in water frozen on the head of the drill that was used in 2012 to reach the lake, covered by a 3.5-kilometer-thick ice sheet, but the match between its DNA and any known organisms never exceeded 86 percent, while a match of under 90 percent is already enough to indicate a new species, Bulat said."

The Matrix in 60 Seconds

This is really cute, and while I love the Matrix, the way this pretty accurately gets the story down kinda lessens the movie for me.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Linda Greenhouse on the Shelby Arguments

As is usual, if you want to read just one thing about a Supreme Court case, read Linda Greenhouse. In A Big New Power she writes about the recent arguments in Shelby County v. Holder on the Voting Rights Act.

Photoshop Action Hack ‘Un-Airbrushes’ Women’s Bodies

Cute: Trojan Horse Hidden 'Beautify' Photoshop Action Reverts Women's Bodies to Un-retouched State

Rand Paul Talked About Drones More in One Day Than Congress Ever Has

Rand Paul Talked About Drones More in One Day Than Congress Ever Has "Over the course of his filibuster yesterday, Rand Paul used the word 'drone' in a military context more than any two-year Congressional term in history — and more than it had been used in the Congressional Record prior to the 112th Congress, combined."

"In total, Paul (and, to a lesser extent, other Senate speakers) said the word 489 times — 22 percent more than the term had been used on the record in the preceding twelve years."

Don’t Cut Social Security, Expand It

Josh Barro Don’t Cut Social Security, Expand It "Despite its problems, Social Security is the best-functioning component of the U.S.'s retirement-saving system. Instead of cutting, the federal government should be expanding its role in retirement saving."

Obama made Pittsburgh depressing because he did not pass a stimulus bill

Alex Pareene in Salon has a lot of fun ripping apart an idiotic Peggy Noonan article, Celebrated author, speechwriter and columnist Peggy Noonan: Obama made Pittsburgh depressing because he did not pass a stimulus bill.

Read her original piece, it's like she's from a different planet. She should have gone to Detroit instead. Remember Detroit? That's the city her party's candidate said let it go bankrupt. I thought Republican's wanted the federal government dismantled because government was the problem. And old time America meant everyone, including cities, would bring themselves up by their bootstraps.

New graph shows unprecedented global warming over past 11,000 years

New graph shows unprecedented global warming over past 11,000 years "You've likely seen the graph of the Earth's average global temperature over the past 2000's mostly a straight line until you get to the industrial revolution and then it shoots up. It looks like a hockey stick. In a study published today in Science, that graph has been extended back 11,300 years and you can really see the scope of the abrupt temperature change."


I guess I've been seeing too much Tufte-like graphs lately, I just want to fix this one.

Update: Someone fixed it a bit:


Methamphetamine Lab Incidents

The DEA has maps of Methamphetamine Lab Incidents going back to 2004.


Dow 36,000 People At It Again

For some reason Bloomberg published Dow 36,000 Is Attainable Again by James K. Glassman, Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute.

Nate Silver describes it well: "Dow 36000 author: my prediction woulda been right if not for dotcom crash, Euro crisis and global financial collapse. "

The article is short and funny if you can have a sense of humor about it. The comments are really entertaining.

Make the most of the Spotlight menu

On my Mac, I tend to use Quicksilver more than Spotlight, but I did learn a few useful things from this Make the most of the Spotlight menu. Note, it's a video that will auto play, but there's a full transcript below.

Seeing at the Speed of Sound

Seeing at the Speed of Sound "Even the most skilled lipreaders in English, I have read, can discern an average of 30 percent of what is being said. I believe this figure to be true. There are people with whom I catch almost every word—people I know well, or who take care to speak at a reasonable rate, or whose faces are just easier on the eyes (for lack of a better phrase). But there are also people whom I cannot understand at all. On average, 30 percent is a reasonable number.

But 30 percent is also rather unreasonable. How does one have a meaningful conversation at 30 percent? It is like functioning at 30 percent of normal oxygen, or eating 30 percent of recommended calories—possible to subsist, but difficult to feel at your best and all but impossible to excel. Often I stick with contained discussion topics because they maximize the number of words I will understand. They make the conversation feel safe. 'How are you?' 'How's school?' 'Did you have a nice night?' Because I can anticipate that the other person will say 'Fine, how are you?' or 'Good,' I am at lower risk for communication failure."

Thursday, March 07, 2013

That's My Senator

I think she's leading up to something...

The Fox News–iest Segment in Fox News History

Jonathan Chait describes The Fox News–iest Segment in Fox News History. "If you have never seen Fox News before, here is a four-minute clip that captures the essence of the network so perfectly that you need never watch anything on it again. It’s all here. At the center, you have an old conservative white guy who is enraged about a fact that exists only in his addled brain. At his side, there’s a blonde sidekick who nods along with him but doesn't get in the way. And ready to absorb his anger is the network’s Emmanuel Goldstein figure, feebly attempting a rebuttal that quickly devolves into a sniveling plea for civility"

Bill needs to learn how to use the internet machine, he can find all the specifics he wants.

Tuesday Wasn't a Good Day For John Boehner

The National Journal wrote Disgraced Ex-Congressman Attacks John Boehner in New Book. "For a man who says he has found inner peace through meditation and study under the Dalai Lama, former Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio has an awful lot of anger. The once-powerful House chairman, who was forced out of office by scandal in 2006 and spent 11 months in federal prison, now has given powerful voice to that anger in a memoir coming out this week."

"Ney’s most dramatic accusations are against his fellow Ohioan John Boehner, the man he once saw as his biggest rival to someday being speaker. He describes Boehner as “a bit lazy” and “a man who was all about winning and money. He was a chain-smoking, relentless wine drinker who was more interested in the high life--golf, women, cigarettes, fun, and alcohol.” He said Boehner “spent almost all of his time on fundraising, not policy.” He “golfed, drank constantly, and took the easy way legislatively.” Ney recalled Boehner handing out checks on the House floor and said his ties with a tobacco company were so tight that lawmakers could get free cigarettes from Boehner’s office. His golfing, Ney said, was “nonstop” and “paid for by lobbyists.”

Ney wrote: “If the Justice Department were ever to make John produce receipts for his addiction to golf just for the years from 1995 to 2004, he would be hard-pressed to comply. John got away with more than any other Member on the Hill.”

The most inflammatory accusation against Boehner in the book is Ney’s contention that he ended his reelection campaign after winning the primary in 2006 only after Boehner, then the majority leader, summoned the cash-strapped and embattled congressman to his office and told him if he quit the race, Boehner would take care of him. “If you resign the next day, I will personally guarantee you a job comparable to what you are making, and raise legal defense money for you that should bury all this Justice Department problem for you,” Boehner said, according to Ney. He said he pressed Boehner, repeating the terms and getting assurance that the offer was “ironclad.” When Ney called back the next day to accept the deal, he wrote that he again repeated the terms to Boehner, who agreed. “Because of Boehner’s promise, I stepped aside,” he wrote. But Ney said Boehner did not keep his word. “I had been lied to and ditched,” Ney said."

There's also this story, John Boehner Connected Super PAC Accused of Taking $2.5 Million in Illegal Donations. Most articles I've seen just mention that Chevron made the donation as if that's the revelation but it's more confusing. The donation was publicly disclosed last October and remember that Citizens United lets corporations donate to campaigns. So what's the issue? The group Public Citizen is saying the donation was illegal because of a law that makes it illegal for government contractors to donate to elections and Chevron is a government contractor. So they're saying Chevron broke the law for making the donation, and the Congressional Leadership Fund broke it for accepting the donation.

"The Chevron donations mattered because they accounted for 22% of the entire total raised by the Congressional Leadership Fund in 2012. Of the $11.3 million the super PAC raised, $9.4 million was spent attacking 14 House Democratic candidates. It is not a stretch to say that Boehner might be leading a smaller House majority today if not for Chevron’s $2.5 million contribution during the last month of the 2012 campaign."

Rape and Pregnancy Statistics

Yet another wing nut Republican has made a stupid comment about rape and pregnancies.

GOP activist says pregnancies rare in rape cases "'Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it's an act of violence, because the body is traumatized,' [Celeste Greig, president of the California Republican Assembly] told the newspaper. 'I don't know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don't know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act.'"

Probably because I had just read a Nate Silver article on voting statistics I was curious what the statistics were. It turns out it's hard to know. Here are two sources I found interesting (and depressing).

RAINN, the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network breaks down the victims by Gender and Age. I found a lot of the statistics surprising:

"1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape)" But 1 in 3 American Indian or Alaskan women were victims of rape or attempted in their lifetimes.

At the end they did the math, "In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped [a DoJ survey]. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period."

But I found the caveats revealing. The definition of rape here includes oral and anal penetration so those can't cause pregnancies. Some victims are on the pill and some attackers wear condoms so there wouldn't be a pregnancy. Some victims may not be able to become pregnant due to age or medical reasons. In some cases there are multiple incidents of intercourse.

A Wall Street Journal article from last August explores this a bit more, Pregnancies From Rape Prove Tough to Count.

"The biggest discrepancy is in the estimates used for the number of rapes in the U.S. These can vary in official government estimates from as few as 64,000 a year to as many as 1.3 million, about 20 times larger, depending on when and how rapes are counted."

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation counted 84,767 forcible rapes—as distinct from statutory rapes without force—in 2010, based on crime reports from local law-enforcement agencies. The Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey, based on polling Americans, counted 188,380 rapes and sexual assaults that year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducting its own victimization survey, counted 1.3 million rapes in 2010."

So the surveys are tough to do and not all victims are going to admit the incident or some details. Still, just to be clear, there seems to be no reason whatsoever to think the odds of getting pregnant from a rape are significantly different from consensual sex. And if you think they are, or think that's a reason to make laws, I think you're a moron.

2012 SportsKids Of The Year: Conner and Cayden Long

This happened three and half months ago but I just heard about it today. Nice story.

2012 SportsKids Of The Year: Conner and Cayden Long. "Conner Long is nine years old. His little brother Cayden is seven. But Cayden can’t do a lot of things his big brother can do. At four months old, Cayden was diagnosed with a condition called hypertonic cerebral palsy, which leaves him unable to walk or talk on his own. Playing sports is a great way for brothers to bond, but it seemed to be out of the question for the Longs — until Conner had an idea.

A year and a half ago, he and Cayden started participating in triathlons together. Conner swims while pulling Cayden in a raft, bikes with his little brother towed behind him in a trailer, and pushes that trailer when they run. Over the past 18 months, the pair from White House, Tennessee, traveled up and down the East coast to compete in races. Seeing the brothers working together has inspired onlookers, while bringing Conner and Cayden closer than ever. Their amazing determination and spirit is why the Long brothers are the 2012 Sports Illustrated Kids SportsKids of the Year."

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Can Eric Cantor Redeem the Republican Party and Himself?

The New Yorker had an interesting long piece on Eric Cantor. The House of Pain: Can Eric Cantor Redeem the Republican Party and Himself? I had thought he was just a tea party ideologue, now I think he's just an opportunist (like Gingrich).

He's making an address at Harvard next monday.

The Argument for the AR-15

I'm generally in favor of gun control though I realize it has flaws. I see no reason not to insist on universal background checks. Assault rifles don't really make sense to me but I realize they're out there and banning them alone versus other guns probably won't make any difference. And they're difficult to define and people already have them and like them and target shooting is fun.

I saw a couple of pieces lately that seemed to be geared to me, that is trying to explain gun culture to the non-gun owner.

Jon Stokes wrote in Danger Room The AR-15 Is More Than a Gun. It's a Gadget

"This is the gun-as-gadget, a relatively new consumer phenomenon born from the unholy union of the post-9/11 national security state and America’s decades-old obsession with hackable, high-performance hardware. From muscle cars to motorbikes to ultra-high-wattage stereo systems, Americans love to take their toys way over the top, and for all its deadliness and terrifying power, the AR-15 is a terrifically fun toy."

And today I heard this nine minute piece on NPR's The Takeaway with John Hockenberry. 'Gun Guys' Challenges the Stereotypes about Firearms and Those Who Love Them.

Windows 8 book authors dish on Windows 8

I try not to comment too much on Windows as I haven't used any version since XP for more than a few minutes. I found Windows 8 book authors dish on Windows 8 to be pretty interesting.

"So I thought it would be interesting to ask my fellow authors of the most popular Windows 8 books what they really thought about Windows 8. (Only Paul Thurrot didn't chime in, as he was on vacation.) Although I know many of them personally, the results still surprised me, not just because they're quite thorough, but also because they're so diverse. Like the blind men and the elephant [1], no two Windows authors see the product the same way -- and their combined observations lend a new dimension to the ongoing Windows 8 debate. On the following pages, in their own words, are the 14 book authors' candid opinions about Windows 8."

Harold Ramis Gets the Last Laugh

Harold Ramis Gets the Last Laugh is a great, long, interview.

"What is there to say about Harold Ramis’s status as an icon that a game of Ramis Roulette can’t say more succinctly? The rules are simple: At any given time of the day or week, search your cable system to see how many Ramis-written-and/or-directed movies will play within the next forty-eight hours. You’ll not only find the subversive classics that made his name (Animal House, Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack), the secondary cultural landmarks (Ghostbusters, Back to School, National Lampoon’s Vacation), the masterpiece (Groundhog Day), or even the more recent commercial successes (Analyze This); you’ll also see stuff like Bedazzled and Multiplicity—films you might be surprised to find yourself laughing through if you take the time to watch them. In three and a half decades of making movies, Ramis has hardly made one that doesn’t qualify for iconic status, or at least regular television rotation. My record at Ramis Roulette is eight, but there are plenty of channels I don’t get."

Bill Gates Reviews Books

I had no idea that Bill Gates had a website that's kind of a blog. Or that he reviews books. Or that he didn't like Why Nations Fail which I haven't read but have vaguely heard of.

Obama’s just now starting to call rank-and-file Republicans?

Obama’s just now starting to call rank-and-file Republicans?

"‘After more than two years of failed negotiations with GOP leaders,’ report Lori Montgomery and Rosalind Helderman, ‘President Obama is for the first time reaching out directly to rank-and-file Republicans who have expressed a willingness to strike a far-reaching budget deal that includes higher taxes.’

And that’s not all! ‘President Barack Obama has invited a group of Republican senators to the White House for dinner Wednesday evening, a source familiar with the event confirmed.’ And he’ll be joining Senate Republicans at their next lunch."

I don't get it. I would have done this 4 years ago. The way you come to agreements is to sit down and talk about the issues (not the ideology). I think the Republicans are wrong on many facts, there's no way to convince them if the press is the middleman. You sit down, you state your case, you listen (actually listen) to theirs, and then combine heads to see which solutions are better. It's not that hard. It's certainly not hard to try.

Kahn's Corner: 100 years, 94 books

Matt Kahn is going to read a lot of successful books. Kahn's Corner: 100 years, 94 books "For this blog I plan, among other things, to read and review every novel to reach the number one spot on Publishers Weekly annual bestsellers list, starting in 1913.  Beyond just a book review, I'm going to provide some information on the authors and the time at which these books were written in an attempt to figure out just what made these particular books popular at that particular time. "

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

nyc past

I've seen (and posted about) some of these before, but nyc past is a fantastic collection of old large format photos of New York City. Stunning.

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Climate change will open up surprising new Arctic shipping routes

Climate change will open up surprising new Arctic shipping routes

"A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, led by UCLA geographer Laurence Smith, looks at how the Arctic will change under even modest levels of global warming. Through computer simulations, the researchers found that open-water vessels will be able to cross the Northwest Passage and North Sea Route regularly in the summer by 2050, without icebreakers. And icebreaker ships may be able to ram right through the North Pole:"


"The blue lines show the fastest routes available for common open-water ships during the summer, while the red lines show routes available for Polar Class 6 ships with moderate icebreaker capacity. By 2040-2059, there are many more routes.

The change here is quite striking. Right now, virtually no commercial shipping goes through the Northwest Passage that hugs northern Canada. Yet by mid-century, those routes could potentially be clear for open-water vessels every other summer. Likewise, the Northern Sea Route that hugs Russia is projected to be open in late summer 90 percent of the time, up from 40 percent today."

Monday, March 04, 2013

How AT&T Is Planning to Rob Americans of an Open Public Telco Network

S. Derek Turner wrote in Wired, How AT&T Is Planning to Rob Americans of an Open Public Telco Network "It wants to exploit a loophole in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s rules to kill what remains of the public telecommunications network — and all of the consumer protections that go with it. It’s the final step in AT&T’s decade-long effort to end all telecommunications regulation, and the simplicity of the plan highlights a dysfunction unique to the American regulatory system.

AT&T and other big telecom carriers want to replace the portions of their networks that still use circuit-switching technology with equipment that uses Internet Protocol (IP) to route voice and data traffic. But because the FCC previously decided that it has no direct authority over communications networks that use IP, this otherwise routine technological upgrade could lead to a state of total deregulation."

Five myths about the sequester - The Washington Post

Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein wrote in the Washington Post, Five myths about the sequester. "Our political system was not designed to be efficient, but it wasn’t supposed to be self-destructive, either. After a near-default on the public debt and a ‘fiscal cliff’ that threatened a new recession, we are facing another man-made crisis: the sequester, across-the-board cuts in discretionary domestic and defense spending that began Friday and will extend over a decade. Let’s separate fact from fiction about the sequester and its impact."

Wealth Inequality in America

Incredible algorithm reveals invisible motion in everyday video

io9 wrote Incredible algorithm reveals invisible motion in everyday video "Researchers at MIT working at 'the intersection of vision and graphics' have created a computer program that offers its users a stunning new way of looking at the world. The intriguing technique, which uses an algorithm that can amplify both movement and color, can be used to monitor everthing from breathing in a sleeping infant, to the pulse in a hospital patient. Its creators, led by computer scientist William Freeman, call it 'Eulerian Video Magnification,' and it's nothing short of stunning to watch in action."

15 Uncanny Examples of the Golden Ratio in Nature

Every few years I see something like this io9 post, 15 Uncanny Examples of the Golden Ratio in Nature. I always forget about them and am always amazed at them.

The Strange, Secret Evolution of Babylon 5

A couple of weeks ago was the 20th anniversary of the premiere of Babylon 5. ion has a nice article with some things I didn't know. The Strange, Secret Evolution of Babylon 5

And now, the nominees for the Nebula Awards

A couple of weeks ago the Nebula Awards Nominees were announced. I've not heard of, let alone read, any of these. I have however seen all the Dramatic Presentation nominees and I'd give it to The Cabin in the Woods.

Dissecting a Trailer

The New York Times had a nice interactive graphic showing how the trailers of some oscar nominees were constructed. Dissecting a Trailer: The Parts of the Film That Make the Cut .

Friday, March 01, 2013

Amtrak loses a ton of money each year. It doesn’t have to.

Amtrak loses a ton of money each year. It doesn’t have to.

"The Brookings report argues that Congress should arrange a deal with the states for these 15 longer money-losing Amtrak routes. If a route is losing money, then the states that are in its path should negotiate how best to provide financial support and fill the hole. (Under this plan, they’d be allowed to use federal transportation funds.) If the states can’t or won’t chip in, then the routes get pared back.

As it happens, this sort of arrangement is already in place for Amtrak’s 26 short-haul routes — Congress set it up back in 2008. States have already been supporting the shorter routes, and this fall, they’ll have to increase their share. That’s expected to reduce Amtrak’s losses by a further $180 million. The Brookings report essentially argues that Congress should set up a similar deal for longer routes — a complicated but doable task."

NASA: "We've discovered a previously unknown surprise circling Earth"

NASA: "We've discovered a previously unknown surprise circling Earth" "NASA's recently deployed Van Allen probes — a pair of robotic spacecraft launched just last August to investigate Earth's eponymous pair of radiation belts — are already turning out some very unexpected findings. Chief among them: an ephemeral third ring of radiation, previously unknown to science, surrounding our planet."

What the White House Looks Like Completely Gutted

The National Journal shows What the White House Looks Like Completely Gutted "The social events of the 1948 holiday season had to be canceled. And with good reason: Experts called the third floor of the White House ‘an outstanding example of a firetrap.’ The result of a federally commissioned report found the mansion’s plumbing ‘makeshift and unsanitary,’ while ‘the structural deterioration [was] in ‘appalling degree,’ and threatening complete collapse.’ The congressional commission on the matter was considering the option of abandoning the structure altogether in favor of a built-from-scratch mansion, but President Truman lobbied for the restoration."